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Influencer Marketing for Niche Audiences


May 23, 2023


May 23, 2023

Influencer marketing has become an essential component of modern digital marketing strategies. When we think of influencer marketing, we usually think of big celebrities selling well-known products: Charlie D’Amelio’s Dunkin campaign, Tinx selling Chipotle, Emma Chamberlain’s Levi’s collab, etc. All these campaigns were super effective—partially because they were thoughtful, well-executed, and backed by huge budgets—but also because pretty much everyone already loves and is a potential consumer of donuts, burritos, and jeans. But what about products that aren’t as ubiquitous as mediocre iced coffee or great-butt pants? How does influencer marketing for niche audiences work?

The Challenge of Influencer Marketing for Niche Audiences

Any influencer’s audience will be chock-full of potential burrito eaters, but it’s far less likely that your typical mega-famous celebrity will have an audience optimized for consumers of more niche products—an app that provides therapy for those affected by substance use disorder for example, or a banking product for founders of early-stage startups.

Certainly, a super famous celebrity will have a big enough audience that, by partnering with them to sell your healthcare app or niche fintech, you’ll get in front of (some of) the right eyeballs (even if your product isn’t for everyone!). But you might spend hundreds of thousands of dollars getting there, wasting a lot of cash in the process. You could also eschew influencer marketing altogether—there are more targeted ways than influencer campaigns to get to your niche audience, like paid social, which allows you to target an audience based on location, interests, or other factors. 

But no matter how niche your product, influencer marketing can be an effective marketing channel, if executed properly. In fact, influencer marketing has proven to be particularly effective in niche markets, where businesses target a specific audience segment or sell a niche product; if done right, influencer marketing can get marketers more views, qualified leads, or conversations for a fraction of the cost of traditional media.

What is Influencer Marketing and Why Should You Use It?

Before we dive into the niche side of influencer marketing, let’s break down the basics. Influencer marketing is a form of marketing that involves collaborating with individuals who have a significant social media presence to promote a brand or product to their audience. Influencers have established a loyal and engaged following on social media, sometimes in a specific niche or industry. They are seen as experts in their respective fields and can influence the purchasing decisions of their followers. According to a study conducted by the Morning Consult, 72% of Gen Z follow influencers on social media, 52% trust influencers’ advice when it comes to products and brands, and 25% of Gen Z women cite influencers as their main source for discovering new products.

How to Work with Influencers

The first step in a successful influencer marketing campaign is to understand your goals and target audience. Back to Dunkin: pretty clear, right? They presumably wanted to increase brand awareness and sales, and pretty much anyone is a potential consumer.

But let’s take a niche product—for example, a healthcare app that offers online treatment for individuals with obsessive-compulsive disorder. It’s safe to say donuts and coffee are going to be relevant to way more people than treatment for a disorder that affects only 1% of the US population.

Finding the right influencers for your brand

So how do you find the right influencers to work with for a very specific product or service? It’s not as simple as googling “top influencers now.” Here are some questions you should ask to determine your campaign goals and outreach parameters:

  1. What are we trying to accomplish (views, conversions, downloads, daily active users, etc.), and which channel will help us achieve that goal best?
  2. Who is this product for, and where are they on social? What information are they consuming, and on which channels?
  3. What does “expertise” mean to consumers of this niche market?
  4. What are the influencer categories within or adjacent to this niche market?

Answering these questions with the OCD treatment app in mind, here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re hoping to drive app downloads; we hypothesize that a mobile-first platform is the best channel for this, so we’ll run a campaign across Instagram and TikTok. Since creators can’t place a clickable link in their content, we’ll negotiate a link in bio during the campaign period.
  2. This product is for people with obsessive-compulsive disorder who are open to treatment, and who either can’t afford, don’t have geographic access to, don’t have time for, or need additional support beyond traditional, OCD-specific, in-person therapy. They’re probably dealing with severe anxiety, and might be following individuals who share their own mental health struggles, and/or therapists who create Reels/TikToks about therapy, OCD, and mental health in general. 
  3. They’re looking for therapists who understand OCD, and who won’t rush to misdiagnose them, unintentionally making their OCD worse.
  4. In addition to therapists, we could also consider creators who share live advice, productivity tips, or even ASMR videos that promise to help people with anxiety.

With these questions answered, we can start narrowing in on specific influencers, campaign metrics, and our key messaging.

A more niche product requires a more niche influencer

Let’s look at an example of a banking product for founders of early-stage startups. That “top influencers now” list from earlier certainly includes influencers whose audiences are made up of some number of startup founders; it’s not like an ad on any of these creators’ channels would be entirely irrelevant to all people in the audience pool. But these sought-after influencers command tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars for an Instagram Reel or a YouTube ad read, and realistically, the majority of these folks’ audiences aren’t going to be startup founders. Jeans wearers? Definitely. Potential consumers of Dunkin iced coffee? You betcha. In need of do-it-all business banking? Probably not. 

This is where we have to get scrappier. Narrowing in a bit on category, we can find plenty of financial influencers: Andrei Jikh, Graham Stephan, and Daniel Braun are all experts in the financial sector. But folks in the financial space tend to skew personal finance, making them an adjacent but not excellent fit for a campaign targeting startup founders looking for business banking. So we dig deeper: this is a financial product, but where are founders sourcing information? What problems are they trying to solve? Perhaps they need help creating a landing page for their SaaS startup because they haven’t hired a designer yet. Maybe they’re looking for reviews of pitch decks from fellow founders. 

We recommend playing around with some keywords, popping them into YouTube, and seeing who comes up. Here are the phrases we tried, and the micro- to mid-size influencers who had smart things to say about the topics in question.

You found the perfect niche influencer, now how do you get started?

At this point, you’ve identified some creators whose messages you think will resonate with your target audience. Now what? 

Can you hire an influencer agency to manage communications using their proprietary software to reach out to influencers? Absolutely. But do you need to? Probably not.

Most creators have their email (or their agent’s email) listed on their YouTube page. Sometimes, they’ll have their email on Instagram or TikTok. DMs from your brand channel also work well. We recommend this format:

Hey, [Influencer!] I run influencer marketing at [company], [company description]. We love your video [identify specific video]. We’d love to discuss collaborating on a paid promotion [description]. I’d love to send a brief your way, and talk pricing and details. Is this something you’re interested in learning more about? 

Here’s an example, using Matt Smith from above, and a fictional fintech app.

Hey, Matt! I run influencer marketing for Really Great Fintech, an all-in-one banking solution for startup founders. Your pitch deck advice is great—we’d love to discuss placing a 30-second ad read in something like your “What investors really want to see in pitch decks” video from February. I’d love to send a brief your way, and talk pricing and details. Is this something you’re interested in learning more about? 

Influencers don’t always respond. Typically, you should follow up after three days if you haven’t heard back. Don’t take a lack of response as a lack of interest: remember, smaller creators are often managing their own outreach, communication, filming, editing, planning, content calendars, etc.—they’re busy business owners. You’re planning to pay them, but still—you have to win them over first.

They responded and they’re interested. Now what?

Once they've responded, the influencer will want to know what’s next. You owe them the following:

  1. A contract, which should outline deliverables, usage, live date, exclusivity terms, and campaign details. There are plenty of free contract templates available online if you don’t have one ready to go)—just make sure your legal team is on board. 
  2. A brief. This is your chance to share key messaging, brand guidelines, watchouts, important dates, and examples. Keep it detailed, informative, and short. 

It's typically a good idea to jump on a quick call with the influencer; a lot of their questions can be ironed out live. This is also a great chance to get to know the creator, show them that you see them as a collaborator, and value their authentic voice—which you should, if you want effective content.

Note: Creators are the experts on their audience. Yes, you’re the expert on your product, but don’t try to tell them what to do. Guidelines and key messaging are great; writing a script and telling them exactly how to position your product isn’t. Do: Treat creators like collaborators. Do not: Think you understand social media better than they do, even if you’ve been working in social for a decade.

Pre-launch Checklist for Your Niche Influencer Marketing Campaign

You’ve locked in creators, they’ve signed contracts, they’re filming content, and you have a live date on calendars. You’re good to go, right?

Not yet. There are a few more considerations for you to keep in mind.

CTA: Where are you directing viewers, and how are you getting them there?

  • If it’s a YouTube campaign, you might create a vanity URL directing viewers to your company’s primary landing page. 
  • If you’re targeting Instagram or TikTok, you could negotiate a link in bio, or focus primarily on views/reach. Don’t be the guy who has the influencer type out a non-clickable URL in their caption—please!

Measuring outcomes

You should have a plan in place to measure success based on your key metrics. Some of these metrics are public (you can see YouTube views on their content yourself), but you can also ask influencers to screenshot metrics from their end and send them through. 

You’re Ready to Start an Influencer Marketing Campaign for Your Niche Audience

You’ve considered your campaign, chosen and contracted influencers, crafted your messaging, and now you have a live date planned. Is it more work than running paid ads and letting them bring you new customers? Absolutely. But the authenticity influencers provide will pay off.

Do you want to launch an influencer marketing campaign for your niche product or service? Let the experts at Right Side Up show you the way—get in touch at growth@rightsideup.co.

Phoebe Kranefuss is a writer, designer, and marketer. She's managed influencer campaigns for fintechs, designed logos for nonprofits, ghost-written tweets for famous teenagers, run social media accounts for healthcare startups, and plenty more! She's great at creating processes from scratch, distilling complexity into digestible information, and thinking outside the box to push the boundaries of creative execution. She lives, works, writes, and teaches in Madison, Wisconsin.

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